Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

“Yo Ese!  Bums eatin’ cops out there yo!”  And with that line we have a solid case for ‘Gangs of the Dead’ to grab the as yet created Direct-To-Video film of the year statuette.  I don’t know how it works for you, but my Netflix cue is chock full of movies that I don’t remember placing in there.  So if you have a movie at 100, eventually that movie will make it to number one and be dropped off at your doorstep.  You open it up, look at it and wonder why in the HELL did I put this in my cue?  Such was the case with ‘Gangs of the Dead’, originally titled ‘Last Rites’.  A zombie movie (which I’m not fond of) with gang bangers.  Great.  I should just put this back in its envelope and send it on back to Lansing.  But I did put this movie at number 100 for a reason, and since it worked so hard to get to number one it at least deserves a chance.  Perhaps because my expectations we so low, or maybe it was the E&J that was in that Styrofoam cup in front of me, but I kneel before the awesomeness of ‘Gangs of the Dead’.

You know the story:  A lunatic hobo preacher is under a bridge spouting off his loose remembrance of the Bible to a group of broken down bums who are listening because they probably hope a meal will come out of this some way or the other.  When without a warning a meteor falls from space laced with zombie infection juice and turns all these bums into flesh eating demons.  Oh, you don’t know that story?  Yeah, neither did I.  One plus for ‘Gangs of the Dead’.  Moving along we meet a trio of Black gang bangers and one of the bangers little sister Latasha (Dayana Jamine) who are meeting one Mister Mitchell (Reggie Bannister) at an abandoned warehouse for what we assume is a transfer of drugs and money.  Also arriving on the scene is quartet of Hispanic gang bangers let by the obnoxiously irritating Cesar (Noel Gugliemi) who got their times mixed up and are also at the spot for a drug to money transfer.  Outside this warehouse is a gaggle of LAPD officers who are on stakeout, foaming at the mouth for the opportunity to beat up LEGITIMATE Black and Mexican criminals.

Just when the sting is about to go down, a wayward zombie bum wanders in front of a police car and instead of running him over like we know an LAPD cop would do in real life, they get out and try to usher the bum out of the way.  Of course it is now on as the rest of the zombie bums appear out of nowhere and devour most of the cops, except for two who manage to make it into the warehouse.  From here ‘Gangs of the Dead’ goes from ‘Colors’ with zombies and transforms into ‘Reservoir Dogs’ with zombies, complete with a Mr. Orange mole somewhere in our crew.  Sad to say not all of our gang bangers and cops are going to survive this night because though the zombies may be slow, they sure are persistent and single minded of focus.  Who will make it out of this zombie hell and back into the safe streets of South Central Los Angeles?  Film at 10.

Within seconds of Gangs of the Dead appearing on your television screen, it becomes quickly apparent that this low budget gang banging flick is going to be a little different.  There is a CGI scene in outer space that is reasonably well done, and we all know that the term ‘well done’ and ‘low budget horror’ are two words that generally don’t collide.  Minutes later, just watching the way the camera reacts to the actors, the framing of the scenes and the reasonably crisp editing, the viewer can at least relax with the comfort that at the very least, these people know what they are doing.  I know we shouldn’t champion a film for being merely competent, but sometimes we gotta do that, you know?

Another plus for ‘Gangs of the Dead’ was the actors that director Duane Stinnett cast for the major roles of his film.  I can honestly say that I didn’t recognize a single on of these cats, not even from a Metamucil commercial, but for the most part they were pretty good.  I particularly enjoyed the witty repartee shared between Ethan Ednee as Mac T and Ryan King who played Snake Dog. 

Of course this isn’t to say that ‘Gangs of the Dead’ is ‘Casablanca’ or anything like that as it is a low budget feature, with certain elements of the budget constraints being plainly evident.  There were moments in middle of the film where it dragged a bit and then there was the cute Latasha who went from a simply being mildly annoying to suffering from complete Zombie Shock Meltdown (ZSM as chronicled by the Journal of Science) which made her retarded, leading her to say things like ‘look a the pretty lights’.

But if you want perfection then I suggest you watch ‘Demolition Man’ or something because for my money you can’t go wrong with ‘Gangs of the Dead’, the best Zombie gangster hood movie ever made.  Hands down.

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